© 2024 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UB research says focus on health, not weight when treating obesity

A foot with red-painted nails on a black and white floor scale
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

University at Buffalo research says there should be more emphasis on health, rather than weight, when treating people who are overweight.

Obesity at all ages is a national health issue and treatment is an industry. Just look at TV ads and see innumerable possible treatments for excessive extra pounds.

That's where Katherine Balantekin comes in. She's an assistant professor in the Exercises and Nutrition Sciences Department at UB's Public Health and Health Professions School. She's involved in a debate about overweight, about shifting away from weight stigma and diet culture and toward health care.

Balantekin said part of it involves a shift from the body-mass index, or BMI, guide.

"I would argue a healthy weight is a weight that you can be at without having a number of health complications associated with your weight," Balantekin said. "These media portrayals of what a healthy weight looks like, those are not portrayals of a healthy weight. Those are portrayals of this ideal weight."

Balantekin said there's concern about someone who wants to lose weight and gets pushback from others.

"The health at every size movement, where people are sort of shamed for the opposite side of things. Where, if you want to lose weight, they're basically saying that you're fat-shaming them because they're in a heavier body," she said, "and so if you want to lose weight, you're automatically saying being heavier is bad."

Balantekin said people who wish to lose weight need to understand it's not simple and it's not easy and will take time.

"If someone wants to work on their weight status or they just want to work on some comorbidities that are associated with weight status, like hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, it will take time and it will take considerable amount of effort because, again, like I said, it's a slow, gradual change to develop these new habits," she said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.